Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lector in "Red Dragon" (2002)
TO THINK ABOUT MIAMI? by John Mariani
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: Pennsylvania Winery Is on a Star Trek Mission and Torture Garden: John Mariani
TIME TO THINK ABOUT MIAMI?
by John Mariani
Many people may be more in the economic doldrums than usual this winter, but a trip South to Miami may at least provide some sun-rich vitamin rays to help restore one's psychic health. And there are lots of hotel bargain rates to be had right now before the high season kicks in.
The city has seen some fine culinary talent appear in the last several months, most of them in the trendy Design District, which a year ago had only Michael's Genuine Food as a culinary destination. Indeed, while Miami Beach still thrives on the familiar, like Joe's Stone Crab Restaurant, and the come-and-gone hip eateries along Ocean Drive and Collins Boulevard, there is only one good new restaurants I'd recommend across the water.
I am also waiting for the re-opening of the old Fontainbleau Hotel, which should be of considerable gastronomic interest, especially since Scott Conant of NYC's award-winning Scarpetta, will be opening up a restaurant there.
Meanwhile there is a lot of new action on and off the Beach, and a lot of new talent too. Here are some of the restaurants I think best express what Miami dining is all about right now.
35 N.E. 40 Street
Jonathan Eismann originally opened Pacific Time on Lincoln Road at
the Beach in 1993. But he got tired of the kind of
bandanna-wearing, flip-flop-footed, Bain de Soleil-smelling guests who
can’t pronounce “gnocchi”
without laughing and wrinkle their chapped
noses at the mention of sweetbreads.
Pacific Time is open for dinner nightly, and lunch Monday-Friday. Snacks and small plates run $4-$19, main plates $18-$34.
r o s i a
Another hip entry to the Design District, Brosia has more of the cast of an outdoor patio restaurant than it does an indoor dining room, which is neither stylish nor very enticing. Fortunately chef Arturo Ariles' cooking is--a deft mix of lightweight prole food and serious items, all from a well-conditioned mold. A 25-foot long mirror above the banquettes is about as stylish as the 40-seat interior gets. Outside, the patio, viewed from the floor-to-ceiling glass windows, encompasses 4,000 of space, focused on a huge mosaic that looks like the shadows on the bottom of a pool or lagoon.
Artiles has a fine résumé--he's worked locally at Norman's in pastry, then as exec chef at Chispa, both of which had a decided Latino slant. Here at Brosia his range is wider, beginning with some beguiling tapas like a lamb skewer with tzatziki sauce and a generous plate of hot piri-piri shrimp with cucumber sambal. Already you're probably saying, that's a pretty global reach, and it's true: the menu is all over the place, but the food is good without being overly concerned about its authenticity. The Niçoise sandwich, with seared ahi tuna, artichoke, olive tapenade, tomato sauce tartare, and piquillo peppers is a happy success of culinary interpretation, and the pappardelle pasta with lobster, baby fennel, and a touch of mint works well. Catalan-style shrimp and clams with chorizo, parsley, chilies, garlic and sherry didn't pack as much flavor as it promised, and the Greek-style "burger of the day" that day I visited was only so-so. The best dish I tried, however, was a classic 12-ounce grilled New York strip steak with pungent-sweet blue cheese-and-caramelized onions, stuffed Mariquillpiquillo peppers with a drizzle of herbed olive oil--sensationally good, and at $26 a steal.
The desserts are well worth ordering, from a traditional Spanish flan with an orange-almond biscuit to a cappuccino pannacotta with vanilla foam and chocolate cookie.
Brosia's obviously built for fun, and it's as good as it is casual, and vice-versa.
Brosia is open for lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner Tues.-Sat., brunch Sun. Dinner starters run $3-$16, entrees $18-$29.
restoration and invigoration of The Tides Hotel on Miami Beach has
brought back to Ocean Drive a sophistication that has been fading
La Marea is open for
breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. Appetizers run $12-$25, pastas
$23-$32, entrees $28-$48.
not new (it opened in 2001) The
Mandarin Oriental Hotel continues--by a
long shot--to be Miami's finest hotel, and Azul is unquestionably its
finest restaurant. The dining room's open, airy, glassed-in
panorama of the
water, its marble kitchen, its shimmering copper accents and glistening
raw bar, and its complete modernity should weather decorous fashion for
decades to come, and, after an initial burst of great culinary ideas by
Chef Michelle Bernstein (who now has her own place, Michy's), the
cooking by young chef Clay Conley, 32, who came out of the Olive Group
of restaurants, has never been better. It is a deft mixture of
Floridian ingredients in Mediterranean and Asian styles, always full of
color and dash, beautifully presented and served. Sommelier
Cynthia Betancourt matches Conley's ideas with a superb 700-selection
winelist that fits the cooking here.
Azul is open for lunch, Mon.-Fri., for
dinner Mon.-Sat. Starters run $14-427, main courses $34-$54.
Fabio Trabocchi, who hails from Le Marche, took over
the kitchen as chef and partner at Fiamma 14 months ago, it was a
something of a gamble--not because he isn't one of the most talented
Italian chefs working in the U.S., but because he followed the widely
touted Michael White, whose big-hearted style of Italian cooking won
Fiamma plaudits from just about all media that covered it. (White was
my pick for "Chef of the Year" in Esquire in 2002.) He had
even finished a Fiamma
that awkwardly came out the week he left the
restaurant; White is now exec chef and partner at Convivio and Alto.
Fiamma is open for
dinner only Mon.-Sat. and offers a 3-course dinner for $85, 5 courses
for $105, and 7 at $125, with an optional $110 wine pairing.
FROM THE WINE CELLAR
Winery Is on a Star Trek Mission, Complete with Torture Garden
mission statement at Chaddsford Winery in Pennsylvania’s historic
Brandywine Valley sounds like the opening of a “Star Trek” episode:
“Chaddsford Winery began as a dream. To go where no one else on the
east coast had gone.”
HEY, IT COULD HAPPEN TO
After biting into a Subway sandwich, John Agnesini thought something "didn't taste right," then was horrified to find a a 7-inch serrated blade in the bread. Agnesini said it "could've slashed" the side of his mouth. Instead, he contended he became ill with "severe stomach issues" for hours after eating, from food poisoning from the knife. Subway restaurants spokesman Kevin Kane said food safety and customer comments are taken "very seriously" and that the company is "investigating the facts."
here don’t talk about it but early visitors to the Napa Valley weren’t
looking for Chardonnay and a $1,300 a night hotel room. They were
looking for work, and, often, looking after relatives who’d been
checked into the Napa State Asylum for the Insane. Renamed the Napa
State Hospital, the place sits well off the beaten tourist track. A
punk band called Cramps once gave a concert there in 1978 (the video
can be seen on YouTube). Since then the hospital, like much of working
Napa, has been mostly ignored.”—Holly Finn, “Review of Redd,” Financial Times.
• On Oct. 31-Nov. 2 “Day of
the Dead Dining” will be featured at Zocalo
in Chicago, with a costume contest, $6 Don Julio Cocktails and DJ
Miguel Martinez. Call 312-302-9977; visit www.zocalochicago.com.
* On Election Night, in Anaheim, CA, Bruno
Serato of The Anaheim White House
is hosting “Race To The White House,” featuring live coverage of the
election proceedings on TV screens and a 4-course Obama vs.
McCain menus, at $44 pp. Call (714) 772-1381 or visit
* NYC’s Da
Silvano Restaurant will be offering $20.08 pricing on all menu
and daily specials normally priced over $20.08 on Nov. 4 in honor of
Election Day. Da Silvano’s sister bar and restaurant next door, Da Silvano Cantinetta will also be
showing the news coverage of Election Day from 12pm until closing. Call
212-982- 2343. For Da Silvano Cantinetta, 212-844-0282;
* On Nov. 8 NYC’s Rosa
Mexicano Lincoln Ctr. will hold a cooking demo and lunch for $45
pp. Executive chefs David Suarez and Joe Quintana share the secrets
behind 3 classic moles: Amarillo, Verde and Coloradito. Call
* On Nov. 9 McCormick
& Kuleto’s Seafood Restaurant (in San Francisco in
Ghirardelli Square/(415) 929-1730) and Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto (in
Berkeley at 1919 Fourth Street/(510) 845-7771) will be offering all
U.S. military veterans a free lunch or dinner entrée in
appreciation for their service to our country.
* NYC’s Brasserie 8
½ will celebrate its 8 ½ - year anniversary this
November, starting at lunch on Nov. 10 thru dinner on Nov.
17. Executive Chef Julian Alonzo has prepared a tasting of 8 ½
dishes, for $28.50 pp. Call (212) 829-0812.
* On Nov. 10 & 11 The
Art Institute of Chicago are inviting Chicagoans to a French
Masters dinner featuring the “Devine Art: Four Centuries of European
Tapestries,” hosted by Mon Ami Gabi
Oak Brook. $75 pp. er person, plus tax and gratuity, the
evenings begin with a wine reception at 6 p.m. The presentation follows
along with a multi-course French feast and dessert will conclude the
dinner. Reservations are required and can be made by calling Mon Ami
Gabi/Chicago at 773-348-8886, or Mon Ami Gabi/Chicago at 630-472-1900.
From Nov. 10-15 in Plainview, NY, Maxwell & Dunne's is hosting “Free Steak
Week.” With the purchase of any steak entrée, diners can also
select a Porterhouse, Kansas City, Rib Eye, Filet Mignon, or Skirt
Steak as a complimentary companion entrée. Visit
www.mdsteakhouse.com or call 516-694-6200.
* On Nov. 12 Chicago’s Cuatro
Executive Chef Edie Jimenez will prepare a 4-course dinner with 10 Cane
cocktails for $80 pp. Call 312.842.8856; visit
* On Nov. 14 in New Orleans the Emeril Lagasse Foundation celebrates its 4th Annual Carnivale du Vin, which culminates on Nov. 15 with a star-studded gala and premier wine auction at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside Hotel. Chefs and vintners, or “Krewe du Vin,” will showcase their cuisine and wines, incl. Emeril Lagasse, Thomas Keller, Mario Batali, Michael Mina, Gale Gand, Gemstone Vineyard, Au Bon Climat, Bonny Doon Vineyard, Broadbent Selections, Caymus Vineyard, Ferrari-Carano, Kosta Browne Winery, Rubicon Estate and Williams Selyem. Visit www.carnivaleduvin.com or call 504.212.2222.
Everett Potter's Travel Report:
I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and a frequent contributor to National Geographic Traveler, ForbesTraveler.com and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star places as five-star experiences." To go to his blog click on the logo below: THIS WEEK: SMART DEALS: Christmas on Sale in the Caribbean
Eating Las Vegas is the new on-line site for Virtual Gourmet contributor John A. Curtas., who since 1995 has been commenting on the Las Vegas food scene and reviewing restaurants for Nevada Public Radio. He is also the restaurant critic for KLAS TV, Channel 8 in Las Vegas, and his past reviews can be accessed at KNPR.org. Click on the logo below to go directly to his site.
Tennis Resorts Online: A Critical Guide to the World's Best Tennis Resorts and Tennis Camps, published by ROGER COX, who has spent more than two decades writing about tennis travel, including a 17-year stretch for Tennis magazine. He has also written for Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, New York Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, Money, USTA Magazine, Men's Journal, and The Robb Report. He has authored two books-The World's Best Tennis Vacations (Stephen Greene Press/Viking Penguin, 1990) and The Best Places to Stay in the Rockies (Houghton Mifflin, 1992 & 1994), and the Melbourne (Australia) chapter to the Wall Street Journal Business Guide to Cities of the Pacific Rim (Fodor's Travel Guides, 1991). THIS WEEK: Justine Henin Opens Florida Tennis Academy.
Family Travel Forum (FTF), whose motto is "Have Kids, Still Travel!",
is dedicated to the ideals, promotion and support of travel with
children. Founded by business professionals John Manton and Kyle
McCarthy with first class travel industry credentials and global family
travel experience, the independent, family-supported FTF will provide
its members with honest, unbiased information, informed advice and
practical tips; all designed to make traveling a rewarding, healthy,
safe, better value and hassle-free experience for adults and children
who journey together. Membership in FTF will lead you to new worlds of
adventure, fun and learning. Join the movement.
MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly. Editor/Publisher: John Mariani. Contributing Writers: Robert Mariani, John A. Curtas, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein, Suzanne Wright, and Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographers: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery, Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.
Any of John Mariani's books below
may be ordered from amazon.com by clicking on the cover image.